Universal remote controls have been around for a while and they have come a long way. They can control the media center, your IR devices and even the smarthome. But are universal remotes worth your money? If so, what should you buy?
What can a universal remote control do?
Before you decide if a universal remote is worth your money (and which one you might want to buy), you should know that universal remotes can do more than just control a TV.
We will quickly look at the features of the Logitech Harmony Companion, as it is undoubtedly the most robust universal remote control. Keep in mind that other (cheaper) universal remote controls can only have one or two of these features, but we'll come into it later.
This is what universal remote controls can do for you:
- Simplify your media center : Universal remote controls can imitate the IR explosion from any remote control. In other words, you can control multiple devices with a remote control.
- Create TV routines: A universal remote control can also automate your TV processes. For example, if you wanted to turn on the TV and PS4 button at the touch of a button, a universal remote could do so. You can also wipe out this routine by adding time-saving commands such as "switch to HDMI input 2."
- Check your Smarthome : Along with IR controls, some universal remote controls can control Wi-Fi enabled smarthome devices. This means you can control Alexa, Google Assistant, Philips Hue and other devices via the universal remote control (or companion phone app). These smarthome features can also be used in connection with TV routines. You can mute the Philips Hue bulbs when, for example, you turn on PlayStation.
- Make "Dumb" Devices Smart : Some universal remote controls can control all devices with an IR sensor (cheap light, portable air conditioner), etc.). In fact, they technically can make your "stupid" devices smart. An electric fireplace set up with a universal remote control can be controlled through Alexa or Google Assistant or added to smarthome routines. (This can only be done with smarthome-compatible remote controls.)
Now that you know what universal remote controls can do, let's get into it.
Do you own a complicated media center?
If your TV is connected to just one video source, you probably don't need a universal remote control. But if your media center consists of a cable box, a few game consoles, a Blu-Ray player and an old VHS player (for example), a universal remote control is probably worth your money.
Apart from the opportunity To turn on different devices with a single remote control, some universal remote controls, such as the Logitech Harmony Companion or the Harmony 665, can build custom routines. You can program the PS4 and TV to turn on by pressing a single button (which can be done without a universal remote on some TVs with HDMI-CEC), for example. Or you can extend the routine by adding commands such as "turn on HDMI input 2," or "set volume to 20."
Of course, you can keep things simple with a cheap remote control such as GE 33709 or Philips Universal Remote. These remote controls do not have smarthome features or routines, but they are capable of controlling up to four devices at a time. It's still better than fiddling with a pile of different remote controls.
Do you have a robust smarthome?
Even with a small media center, a universal remote control can still be worth your money. That is, as long as you have (or want) a robust smart home.
At a basic level, remote controls like Harmony Hub, Harmony Companion and Fire TV Cube can easily be integrated into a smart home. They can control devices such as Philips Hue bulbs, and they can be used to set up nifty smart home routines.
But, as we mentioned earlier, some universal remote controls can also make any IR-controlled "stupid" device a smart device. If you have a strict Christmas light controlled by an IR remote control, you can use a universal remote control to integrate these lights into the Alexa or Google Assistant setup. Then you can check the lights with voice commands or with typical smart home routines.
The thing is that smart home-made universal remote controls are expensive. The Logitech Harmony Companion costs about $ 105, and the Amazon Fire TV Cube (which only works with some [dummydevicesfrom) runs for around $ 120. But to be fair, these remote controls may be cheaper than replacing your current IR-controlled audio, Blu-Ray player or Christmas lights.
In Want a Universal Remote, Which Should I Buy?
If you can't justify the price of a universal remote, you probably don't need one. There's not even the point of buying a $ 10 universal remote control like GE 33709 if you're happy with your media center. And you probably don't need a $ 105 Logitech Harmony Companion if you don't own any smart home devices.
But if you are tired of your complicated media center or you want to control your electric fireplace with voice commands, universal remote control can be worth your money. They are relatively easy to set up and they can make your life much easier.
There are many universal remote controls on the market and it can be difficult to find one that actually fits your needs. So we're going to quickly review the best universal remote controls and explain why they might be useful to you. We will also divide these remote controls into "basic" and "smart home-ready" categories to keep things simple.
Without further ado, here are our favorite "basic" universal remote controls:
- GE 33709 ($ 10): This four-unit remote control is as straightforward as it gets. It's set up a bit like a cable TV remote, and it will work with just about any device in your media center.
- Philips Universal Remote ($ 10): A small remote control of 4 devices configured for streaming, Blu-Ray, DVD and DVR functionality. It has just as many buttons as all other remote controls, but this is a good choice if you don't see much live TV.
- Sideclick for Roku ($ 25): If you see most of your TV with a Roku, then the side click can eliminate the need for a bulky universal remote control. The side click attaches to the Roku remote control and it can control TV, media players and cable box.
- Logitech Harmony 665 ($ 69): This 15-unit remote has a built-in display and is capable of following IR-based routines. It's not smart, but it's a great option if you want a streamlined universal remote control.
And here are our favorite smarthome-ready universal remote controls. Remember, they all do different things, so don't just jump for the cheapest (or most expensive) remote without knowing what it does:
- Logitech Harmony Hub ($ 70): On your own, a Harmony Hub (sans remote ) can control up to eight smarthome devices (including smart TVs). It does not come with a remote control and requires you to do everything through the Harmony app on your smartphone. It's a good option if you don't really need a remote control that works with IR-controlled devices; Just know it can't add smarthome functionality to "stupid" tech.
- Logitech Harmony Companion ($ 105): This is the ultimate smart home-made universal remote control. It can control up to eight IR and smarthome devices, and it can be used to make "stupid" devices smart. It is also compatible with the Harmony app so you can control everything with your phone. This is an excellent option for someone who wants everything from a single remote.
- Amazon Fire TV Cube ($ 120): If you already own a bunch of Alexa-enabled devices, the Fire TV Cube can provide a great universal remote control. Just know that it can only control some devices, especially TVs, audio tapes, cable boxes and A / V receivers. And in case you are wondering, it doesn't force you to use the Fire TV / Prime Video app.
Don't forget to buy one of these remote controls if you don't need one. But if you really want one (or you know someone who needs a nice gift), maybe it's time to pull out your wallet. We're sure you won't regret it.